Nutella cookies

Nutella cookies

Nutella cookies

We saw such an interesting movie the other night. Female, starring Ruth Chatterton, is a pre-code movie. This means that it’s shocking, sassy and salacious! This, in fact, means that it was made before the enforcement of the “Hays Code,” a set of strict rules imposed upon the film industry in the early 1930s. These rules determined what you could show in a film and what you could say in a film, of course, but I find it fascinating that they also controlled the plot of a film. You could get away with showing a “bad girl” or a “fallen woman” if she was punished by the plot – if her immoral actions resulted in death or redemption (and marriage). I love to watch post-code movies and see the way that humanity, in all of its imbalance and immorality, seeps through the cracks in the plot, to watch for moments when it’s obvious that the outcome of the film has nothing to do with the characters in the film, with their desires or fears. (Watch Some Like it Hot, and remember that “the code” discouraged the depiction of gay characters.) Female (1933) is something of a cusp film – the code had been introduced, but not yet strictly enforced. It tells the story of Alison Drake, the boss of a large auto plant, who long ago decided to “travel the same open road that men travel,” and to treat men exactly as they’ve treated women all of these years. And so she does! She has brief affairs with any young thing that catches her eye at the office, and she forms no emotional attachment and expects that they’ll do the same. In the end, of course, she’s tamed by a strong “alpha male” who looks alarmingly like Ronald Reagan. And so, in a sense, it could be a post-code movie, despite all of the innuendo and her shocking behavior throughout, because she’s redeemed by marriage. But the film struggles against this tidy ending. For one thing, it’s very funny throughout, and when she declares her decision to leave her company to her future husband and to have at least nine children, it comes across almost as another joke. And the humor is so clever and satirical. The show Mad Men got a lot of attention for showing how degradingly women were treated at a certain time, especially in the work place. Alison Drake turns that world on its head, but with such honesty and good nature that we almost take her side, though she’s using and abusing all the handsome boys at the office. The film raises questions, but it doesn’t make simple judgments about the characters or their actions. For instance, throughout the film it becomes obvious that Alison Drake’s servants like her very much. They talk to her like an equal, and they take an interest in her life – the chauffeur goes so far as to fight for her honor in response to a slur on her character. This makes her seem like a real, human character, and one who cannot be penned in by a simplistic Hollywood ending. She’s told to be softer and more feminine to snag her man, and she tries this approach, but with an unmistakable smile on her face the whole time. Oh those naive days of yore, when women thought it would be clever to pretend to be something they’re not to get themselves married. Thank heavens we’ve grown beyond that, as a society. But wait, what’s this? On the Fox news website recently, and written by a woman! Advice that women should be softer and more feminine if they’d like to get themselves married! I won’t give it any more attention than it deserves, especially since Stephen Colbert has pretty much said all that there is to say.

So…nutella cookies!! They’re like nutella because they’re made with cocoa powder and hazelnuts, and they have nutella mixed into the batter! They’re like nutella because they’re delicious and addictive! They’re crispy-outside-soft-inside-chocolatey-nutty-melty-pleasantly-plump-and-weighty. And they’re fun and easy to make.

Here’s The Carter Family with Single Girl, Married Girl. Surely one of the first feminist anthems, and from such an unlikely source.
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Malcolm’s tree cake

Tree cake

Our Malcolm is ten today! It boggles the mind! How did it happen? Where did the years go? *sniff* Of course I’m thinking a lot about the day that he was born, and the overwhelming joy of meeting him for the first time, with all its fear and exhaustion and hope and bewildering amounts of love. But I keep thinking back to a day a few years ago. He’d had a bad cough. I took him to the doctor to get it checked out. He hates the doctor! It’s one of the few things in life he’s afraid of. Well, the doctor said we should go to the hospital and get an X-ray. Horror! He was so anxious and reluctant. But we went, and he was calm, even cheerful when we got there. I was worried about him, I was trying to keep his younger brother happy. We were waiting and waiting. And then they brought us to see the X-ray. I was undone! He’d taken a breath, and held it for the picture, and you could see the air in his lungs. It was so beautiful! His small bones were so delicate and strong, and so gracefully formed. I nearly cried! It’s moments like that, and births, and birthdays, too, that hit you over the head with a wollop of all of the love you feel for someone that you see every day, feed every day, scold every day, clean up after every day. Our Malcolm is a bright, funny, sweet boy. He’s full-speed-ahead-on-to-the-next-thing. He’s a pack rat and an inventor. He tells wonderful stories about things he’ll make some day. He’s fearless in the ocean. He’s thoughtful and comforting when you’re anxious. He’ll teach you everything he knows. He makes me angrier than anyone I’ve ever met, and then mocks me in my anger. He doesn’t stay angry long, and will hug you and go right on with his schemes and plans in a moment. He breaks everything he touches, but he’s clever enough to put it back together again. He could swim in a puddle. He claims to be an outside-water-creature. He claims to be part dog, and he says he can hear dolphins when he’s underwater. He’s always up for a walk, and he’ll talk your ear off while you walk, as if his voice moves his feet, and he’ll say the sweetest funniest things. He never listens!! But he hears everything. You can’t get a thing by him. He’s savvy, he’s sassy. He’s wise. He’s decisive, and good at giving advice. I’m so happy to know him, so excited to see what he’ll do with all his energy and creativity and strength, as he gets older. I was walking with him the other day, thinking about how much fun he is to have around, and I realized how lucky I am to have him as a friend.

He wanted a tree cake with monkeys on it. He wanted the tree to stand up like a real tree, in three glorious dimensions. I was up for the challenge. We came up with a fiendish plan. We improvised as we went along, changing the scheme when we got to the candy aisle at the grocery store. And look at what we made! Martha Stewart eat your heart out! Doesn’t she wish she could make a giant messy lopsided tree cake? Doesn’t everyone! The trunk is made of brownies, and the two layers are held together with nutella. The cake itself is a chocolate chip cake. The frosting is a sort of buttercream. (That’s sugar and butter, people! That’s sweet!) We couldn’t find gummy monkeys, but we used spearmint leaves sliced in half, gummy flowers, a few gummy bears, and two little wind-up toy monkeys. It’s a mess, but I like it!! Here’s my philosophy about birthday cakes…I’m not the neatest decorator on the planet, but if you cover something with candy, it appeals. If you basically have a few giant chip cookies poised on top of brownies, you’re golden!!


Here’s July Tree, by Nina Simone. We’ve always thought it was about Malcolm being born!

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Isaac’s ultimate nutella-filled pretzels

Isaac had strep throat twice this winter. It’s almost a relief when you get the diagnosis, because you know what it is, and you know how to treat it. There must have been a time before antibiotics were discovered that it would have been such dire news. The medicine usually kicks in right away, but you can’t send the kid to school for another twenty-four hours. I like that grace period! I like spending a day with one of my boys, when it almost seems like they’re playing hooky, because they feel well enough to do (quiet) fun things. We’re always both a little tired, from nights of staying up feeling ill or worrying (I do a lot of that!), so it’s nice to cuddle on the couch and read, or draw, or sit in the sunshine. Or bake! It seems to have become a tradition that we’ll bake cookies, usually based on some idea of the boys’ clever little brains.

nutella-filled pretzels

This nutella-filled pretzel cookie, though, is something I’ve been scheming about for a while. Over the summer it was all the rage to dip skinny little pretzel sticks into a giant jar of nutella. (An invention of their cousin, Evan) It is an oddly perfect combination. Mild and salty meets almost-too-sweet. So that’s what we decided to do here. I wasn’t sure if the nutella would stay inside the pretzel, what with all the baking and the boiling. I was delighted that it (mostly) did! On a few of the pretzels, the nutella leaked out and somehow melded with the salt and the butter and lord knows what else to form completely delicious little crispy chips. Someday…I will find a way to make them.

We mixed up the dough, and then we had to let it rest for an hour, so I suggested Isaac have some lunch while we wait. “A lunch break!” he declared. “This is the first job I’ve ever had where I got a lunch break!”

These cookie pretzels are very popular in my family at the moment. Although for some reason David keeps saying, “you shouldn’t have done this!” They are dangerously good!!

We went to the doctor twice, and both times, this song was playing when we drove back down the flower-lined streets of our town. Isaac said, “this is one of my favorite songs at the moment.” Which is funny, cause it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s Barbara Dane with Ramblin’ Round. I’ve heard it a million times, and it makes me weepy every single time I hear it, as though I’ve never heard it before.

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